Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., praised the outcome of Griswold v. Connecticut, a landmark Supreme Court case on family planning and contraceptive care,  at a June briefing in Washington, D.C. Photo by APHA/Hannah d'Entremont

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., praised the outcome of Griswold v. Connecticut, a landmark Supreme Court case on family planning and contraceptive care, at a June briefing in Washington, D.C. Photo by APHA/Hannah d’Entremont

Fifty years after a landmark public health victory handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, Americans are not getting the reproductive health care they need, according to panelists at a Washington, D.C. briefing in June.

“If I look at the age range of most of the folks in this room, I’m going to speculate that we have a few people in the audience that are both sexually active and deliberately trying to avoid a pregnancy at this moment,” said AccessMatters President and CEO Melissa Weiler Gerber, in a discussion of Griswold v. Connecticut, which found in 1965 that the denial of contraception use violates a married couple’s right to privacy. Seven years later non-married people were granted the same contraception use protections.

Gerber stressed the importance of contraception for the health and well-being of women and families nationwide. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., joined the briefing to express support for reproductive care access.

According to Blumenthal, “We gave creation to this fundamental bedrock principle – kind of the Magna Carta of privacy principles that people ought to be able to control their own bodies and their own lives, women and men, in a way that Griswold says fundamentally they should.”

Policymakers are out of touch with women’s thoughts on reproductive health and family planning, National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association President and CEO Clare Coleman said. Coleman also shared new national polling data showing that:

  • 91 percent say Americans should have the right to privacy when making decisions about contraception;
  • 90 percent agreed that everyone has the right to use safe, affordable family planning services, including contraceptive methods of their choice;
  • 86 percent of women agree that having access to contraception including prescription and non-prescription birth control methods are an important part of what they consider preventive health care; and
  • 75 percent of survey respondents believe that access to birth control plays an essential role in improving community health.

The Title X Family Planning Program, managed by the Health Resources and Services Administration, is the only federal grant program dedicated to providing people with comprehensive family planning and related health services. Title X provides affordable, high quality care to women, men and adolescents giving priority to persons from low-income families. According to the 2013 Family Planning Annual Report, Title X-funded centers served over 4.5 million people in 2013, 92 percent of which were women.

However, Congress has cut funding for Title X substantially over the past six years. Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee proposed to eliminate all funding for Title X.

“Family planning is basic preventative care for women,” added California Family Health Council President and CEO Julie Rabinovitz, who oversees the largest Title X program in the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made access to contraception and family planning one of the top-10 public health accomplishments in the U.S. in the 20th century.

APHA is actively engaged in advocating for access to the full range family planning services, including leading the Friends of the Health Resources and Services Administration and weighing in on legislative, regulatory and judicial matters. For more information on APHA’s involvement and support, refer to the APHA webpage on reproductive and sexual health.